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Signs That May Help Identify a Dating Scam

The signs discussed below are derived from examination of a number of dating scam attempts. Not every sign will apply in every case. Of course, the presence of these signs in an online relationship is not - by itself - proof that the person wooing you online is a scammer. Nor does the absence of such signs mean that you should throw caution to the wind. Nevertheless, these signs should be taken as warning flags, especially if more than one is present. While the below list discusses specific gender targeting tactics often used by dating scammers, very similar tactics are also used by scammers targeting gay victims.

  • Consistently poor spelling or grammar indicates that the language they are using may be the person's second language even though they claim to be a born and bred resident of your country.

  • A too good to be true looking photograph. For men, the picture will be of a very attractive woman who often appears to be considerably younger than the male and looks like a model. For women, the photograph will depict a handsome and obviously fit male who also looks like a model.

  • Scammers posing as women will often claim that they are hard-working but in a lower paying profession. Scammers posing as males will often profess to be independently wealthy, the owners of a lucrative business, or in an occupation such as the military.

  • Male scammers often claim to be widowers with one or more young children to look after. They may claim that their partner died after a tragic accident or illness leaving them unexpectedly as single fathers.

  • The scammers will often claim to be a resident of the country you are in but currently working overseas or out of town for an extended period. They will claim that they really want to come and see you but cannot for various reasons, often stating that they do not currently have the money for the airline tickets.

  • The scammers will very quickly begin to profess their unconditional love for you. Soon after you "meet" online, they will ask to bypass the dating site's internal messaging system and initiate direct contact with you. They will try to convince you to give them your phone numbers, Skype contact name, and personal email address. They will say that they want to communicate with their "soul mate" in more personal and intimate ways and therefore wish to move away from the dating site's communication system. They may ask for your home address, ostensibly so that they can send you "gifts of love" such as teddy bears, flowers or chocolates.

  • The person will often tell you that they have never told anyone else before as much about their life as they have shared with you. They are skilled at asking you to reveal intimate and personal details you may not have shared before with many people, thus appearing to offer support and intimacy. Scammers posing as females may send intimate or explicit photographs or videos quite quickly after the relationship begins.

  • The person may spend days, weeks or months building up an apparently close emotional relationship with you before they first ask for money. But even after a lengthy period, any requests for money should be considered a red flag

  • The person may request a small amount of money first, inventing some seemingly plausible reason for needing this small "loan".

  • If you comply and send the smaller sum, you may subsequently receive "urgent" news from the person describing a sudden crisis or emergency that requires you to send a considerably more substantial amount of money. This often takes the form of a medical emergency involving them or their supposed child or some manner of banking or legal crisis that is "temporarily" stopping them from accessing the large sums of money they claim to have in the bank.
    Often, they will give you very little time (perhaps only an hour or so) to get the money to them but will promise to very quickly pay back every cent they "borrow".

  • The scammer may send you money in the form of cheques or money orders and ask you to deposit it in your bank account.. Or they may ask to transfer money directly to your account from another source. They may instruct you to keep a certain percentage for yourself - perhaps as a repayment for a previous loan - and electronically wire the remainder of the funds to another person. This is a scheme designed to launder the proceeds of criminal activity. Any requests to process money via your own bank accounts should be taken as a warning sign.

Last updated: March 1, 2013
First published: March 1, 2013
Written by Deborah A. Christensen, BSc(Psych)
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